Malcolm Middleton - Electric Circus, Edinburgh, Wed 14 Dec
The ex-Arab Strap man isn't as miserable as he makes out
What better way to celebrate Christmas than with Mr Season of Goodwill himself, Malcolm Middleton, the man whose campaign to get ‘We’re All Going to Die’ to the 2007 Christmas number one spot will live long in the hearts of those who believed in it. That song was replayed here, of course, appearing alongside such heart-warming favourites as ‘Four Cigarettes’ and its striking ‘I don’t remember luck / I remember failure’ sentiment; the cavernously sad line ‘you’re the only person that can make me feel alone’ in ‘Devastation’ and the stark realisation on ‘Choir’ that ‘deterioration comes to us all.’
Yet painting the ex-Arab Strap guitarist as a font of wintery miserablism is unfair and untrue, even when he tries to do it himself (he apologises for ‘the miserable bastard supporting me’ – his own Human Don’t Be Angry side project). Playing solo with an acoustic guitar and his eyes shrouded beneath the brim of a baseball cap, Middleton is more at home with realist optimism than abject sadness: the loser’s rallying cry of ‘A Brighter Beat’; the recessionary anthem ‘Blue Plastic Bags’; the doleful but heartfelt romance of ‘Love Comes in Waves’. There was equivocal good cheer in ‘Burst Noel’ and some heartfelt protest singing in new song ‘The Whole World’s Gone to Fuck’, then we were urged to ‘keep smiling’ on the way home. It was really no trouble at all.